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A calling with view

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It all started back in 1972. I was 11 years old, sitting in Primary one brilliant Thursday afternoon, when an emergency struck — an emergency I learned was not so uncommon in the church.

"Come along, dear," the Primary president whispered. "We need you to play the piano today. I'm afraid Sister Hansen hasn't arrived, and, well, there's no one else . . ."

A look of stark panic was plain on her face.

Play the piano? For Primary? Indeed I was learning to play, and the songs were within my reach, but . . . holy cow! Playing while others sang along was something entirely different.

Shall the youth of Zion falter?

The Primary president's hands firmly pushed me down on the piano bench. With that moment, the adventure began, and my life in the church would never be the same. I had no idea I would spend the next 34 years serving in music callings, and happily, there's no end in sight.

Count your many blessings!

A year later, I found myself in Mutual, once again at the piano. Ooops . . . was I supposed to follow the chorister? The poor dear waved her arm furiously, but it hadn't dawned on me to pay attention to any of that. I didn't realize I was playing ever slower and slower. "Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel" took nearly as long as crossing the plains.

Then there was the time I played the organ in a neighboring ward. The bishop leaned over as I sat down. "Just a heads up," he said. "Sometimes our organ just randomly shuts off."

Huh? Sure enough, in the middle of the opening song, if went off and refused to be revived. The congregation gamely kept singing while I scampered over to the piano. Maybe we could call that one "Hymns Unplugged."

Since that long-ago day in Primary, I've learned a thing or two about playing the piano and organ for church meetings.

• Some piano music racks are inexplicably shaped like slippery slides. Sheets of music arranged there so carefully can suddenly decide to shoot downwards and flutter to the floor, without even the decency to land face up.

• "Phantom of the Opera" sounds really cool on the chapel organ.

• Don't use Hymn No. 2 for prelude music.

• That unidentifiable item you just took off the top of the piano was an important part of the Relief Society lesson. Thanks for messing everything up.

• If you've been called to be the Primary pianist, you might as well just memorize "Book of Mormon Stories" and get it over with.

• Be very watchful during the Primary's annual sacrament meeting program, when the children are seated on the stand. The lure of the organ can be irresistible, and if a Sunbeam should wiggle his way onto the organ pedals, well, it ain't pretty.

• If you faint while sitting at the organ, try to fall away from the keys.

My experiences as a church musician have ranged from the ridiculous (accompanying the bishop impersonating Barry Manilow at the ward talent show) to the sublime (accompanying the Mormon Tabernacle Choir). The rewards have been great . . . plus a soft seat on the stand. Since that frightening day when I was 11 years old, I have had my cup of blessings filled over and over by serving my fellow brothers and sisters through music.

Let us all press on!

Margot Hovley is a mother of seven who plays the organ in Centerville.